This month we are excited to bring you a conversation with Ann Beaty, Director of Kroger Merchandising Consulting at 84.51°. Ann’s experience working with the largest grocery chain in the U.S. combined with her personal connection to plant-based eating has given her a unique and valuable perspective on the plant-based foods market. Ann discusses her personal journey and vision for the future, along with offering advice to retail professionals who are curious about how to effectively integrate plant-based products onto their shelves.
Ann will be a speaker on the opening keynote panel at Plant Based World Conference & Expo, now less than a month away. She will join Ed Brown, President of Restaurant Associates and Michele Simon, Executive Director of the Plant Based Foods Association for a moderated conversation on the growth of the plant-based foods industry.
What personal or professional experiences brought you to be passionate about plant-based foods?
More than three years ago, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol during a routine physical and urged by my doctor to begin taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, even though I was only in my 30s. I’ve always resisted relying on Western medicine, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. My doctor gave me 12 weeks to improve, so I did my research and learned that animal foods contain cholesterol and plant foods do not. I went vegan for 12 weeks and was thrilled to see that at a follow up test, my cholesterol had gone down 110 points, and it’s been in a healthy range ever since! This was enlightening for me and I became passionate about making sure everyone had access to this kind of information. In the years since, the diet change has also led me to have more energy, sleep better, exercise more, and feel the best I’ve ever felt!
Can you explain a bit about Kroger Merchandising Consulting at 84.51° and the role it plays in the larger picture of Kroger’s grocery business?
The main role of the consultant at 84.51° is to turn data into actionable insights. Our consultants unlock insights and develop solutions that create truly personalized experiences for our customers and drive long-term growth for our client partners. We partner with clients to develop business strategies and create plans that will convince customers to shop at Kroger. We use our learnings and expertise to optimize assortment, maximize product launches, develop pricing strategies, personalize offers and messages to customers, and more.
As the largest food retail chain in the country, Kroger undoubtedly has major influence in the industry. Do you see the next generation of retail being pioneered by big chains like Kroger, or is it the smaller, independent and natural stores leading the way with the big chains following suit?
I think that smaller, independent stores will always be a place for inspiration and innovation, but big chains like Kroger have an important role to play as well. Our scale and influence allow us to truly move the industry and turn niche trends into mainstream success stories. We also have the knowledge and expertise to help emerging suppliers refine their offering to appeal to a broader audience. With more than 11 million customers visiting a Kroger store every day, we have an enormous opportunity to influence the way America eats.
You will be speaking on the opening keynote panel for Plant Based World Conference & Expo on June 7 alongside Michele Simon of the PBFA and Ed Brown of Restaurant Associates. What excites you most about a dedicated plant-based trade event and the opportunity to represent the retail sector on the opening keynote?
I’ve been to many trade shows, but never one that was so focused on all of the important aspects of one specific topic. The opportunity to bring together retail, brands, healthcare and the community under one roof to tout the benefits of a plant-based diet is very exciting. Retailers have an important role to play in this movement and it’s our responsibility to stay on top of trends and anticipate what our customers will want to buy in the future. We are seeing several signs that plant-based items are those items and we’re excited to see where this trend will take us.
What advice can you offer to the modern day retail professional who is trying to wrap their minds around the consumer shift towards more plant-based food options?
I can boil it down to one word: incrementality. Plant-based items may start out with small sales and we all know that retailers must focus on the bottom line, but we can’t lose sight of how incremental an item is. If I have 10 deli sandwiches available, but none are plant-based, I’m alienating an entire customer base and I may not even realize it. The sales of a new plant-based item may not immediately be more than the animal product it replaces, but these are often incremental dollars that a retailer wouldn’t have captured at all without that new item.
How would you describe your vision for the plant-based foods market for 5-10 years from now?
I’m excited to see all of the innovation around meat and cheese analogs and I’m happy that we’re making it easier for customers to try out a plant-based lifestyle, but I’m also looking forward to plant-based items that are less indulgent and more focused on sustaining health. Shoppers want to eat healthier and they often look to their local grocery store for help in learning how to do it. I think that’s a key role for a plant-based diet in the future.
Big thanks to Ann and her team at 84.51° for pioneering these efforts to make plant-based food options more accessible. We look forward to hearing you speak at Plant Based World on June 7!